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If are an artist, you must also be a project manager. You are obliged to create plans and schedules, set goals, and monitor the state of your creative projects, your creative career, and your creative life. Before we turn to an examination of “you as project manager,” let’s summarize a bit. The following are seven key ideas that amount to a small summary of the material we’ve been covering.

  1. Understand what you are up against. Our own personality produces difficulties, the creative work we attempt produces difficulties, and the world we live in, which includes our society, our relationships, and the art marketplace, produces difficulties. Fully acknowledging the extent to which our life is a project beset by this array of difficulties and shadows, one that will always be beset by this array of difficulties and shadows, is better than hoping and pining for the facts of existence to be different from what they are. You are not easy, writing your novel is not easy, and selling your novel is not easy. So be it.
  2. Take your own side. What will make this marathon race easier is being on your own side. You must be your own best friend, advocate, and advisor. This means creating strong intentions that meet your vision of how you want to live your life and how you want to make yourself proud, aligning your thoughts with those intentions and ridding yourself of thoughts that do not serve you, and aligning your behaviors with your intentions and ridding yourself of behaviors that do not align with your intentions. Nominate yourself as the hero of your own story and then you think like a hero and act like a hero.
  3. Show up. What will likewise make this marathon race easier, in addition to taking your own side, is showing up, not attaching to outcomes, and embracing the reality of process. You go into the dark and you do the work. You do not keep trying to turn on a light that does not exist, a light that will allow you to know before you know and that will prevent you from making mistakes and messes, and you do not keep wishing and hoping that each thing you begin will turn out well. Each new day is a day to sit down, surrender, and do the work.
  4. Explore your anxieties and learn some anxiety management techniques. Anxieties plague artists and it is vital that you understand the role that anxiety plays in your life, where and how it manifests itself, and what you are going to do about it. Anxiety may be preventing you from learning difficult repertoire, from trying your hand at painting in a new idiom, from entering or doing well at competitions, from talking to agents, even from approaching the blank canvas or the blank computer screen. Anxiety is your friend, when it accurately warns you of danger, your enemy, when it stirs up your defenses for no good reason, and your lifelong partner.
  5. Practice some existential magic. Get in the habit of creating new meaning in your life, of investing meaning in your current ideas and projects and in new ideas and projects, of starting each day in right relationship to meaning by announcing that you matter, that your efforts matters, and that you are going to seize meaning opportunities as they arise. Stop pining for meaning and you stop seeking meaning and you announce that meaning is infinite—but that its existence rests entirely on your shoulders.
  6. Have a life. Don’t imagine that creating well or having a successful career in the arts is enough. You also need a life—or, to put it in meaning language, you need to make meaning in more ways than just via creating. Luckily, many additional meaning opportunities are available to you. That rich life might include relationships, a meaningful second career, activism, a disciplined practice of some sort in addition to your morning creativity practice, as well as time-outs, relaxation, enjoyment, and “meaning neutral” periods during which you don’t pester yourself about meaning. Get a life!
  7. Prove the exception. Most people won’t create regularly. Don’t follow in their footsteps. Most people won’t market their work energetically. Don’t follow in their footsteps. Most people will avoid the darkness of not knowing and never go deep. Don’t follow in their footsteps. Most people will never engage in the kind of personal analysis and self-awareness that I’ve been preaching, analysis that includes identifying what language doesn’t serve you and changing it, and so on. Don’t follow in their footsteps. Prove the exception!


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